Terrace Books, an imprint of The University of Wisconsin Press

Food / Popular Culture / Business


A History of the Great American Potato Chip
Dirk Burhans

Terrace Books

Best Books for General Audiences, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Outstanding Book, selected by the Public
Library Association

“The appealing tale of how the pedestrian potato was transformed into America’s favorite snack food.”
—Margaret Engel, coauthor (with Allison Engel) of Food Finds: America’s Best Local Foods and the People Who Produce Them

The potato chip has been one of America’s favorite snacks since its accidental origin in a nineteenth-century kitchen. Crunch! A History of the Great American Potato Chip tells the story of this crispy, salty treat, from the early sales of locally made chips at corner groceries, county fairs, and cafes to the mass marketing and corporate consolidation of the modern snack food industry.

Crunch! also uncovers a dark side of potato chip history, including a federal investigation of the snack food industry in the 1990s following widespread allegations of antitrust activity, illegal buyouts, and predatory pricing. In the wake of these “Great Potato Chip Wars,” corporate snack divisions closed and dozens of family-owned companies went bankrupt. Yet, despite consolidation, many small chippers persist into the twenty-first century, as mom-and-pop companies and upstart “boutique” businesses serve both new consumers and markets with strong regional loyalties.

Illustrated with images of early snack food paraphernalia and clever packaging from the glory days of American advertising art, Crunch! is an informative tour of large and small business in America and the vicissitudes of popular tastes.

“Dirk Burhans has a knack for seeking out cool, interesting businesses and, more importantly, the people who make them hum. You’ll have no better guide through the little-known but fascinating world of regional potato chips.” —Brian Butko, author of Klondikes, Chipped Ham, & Skyscraper Cones

• 2008 is the United Nations Year of the Potato!

Author Dirk Burhans of Crunch!Dirk Burhans grew up in the heart of traditional potato chip country in eastern Ohio. He is a past publisher of the magazine Greasy Spoon (previously known as Burger Boy) and has been a frequent contributor to many newspapers and magazines on the subjects of potato chips, soda pop, and hamburger chains. Burhans has a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Missouri and has worked as an avian ecologist, graphic artist, and part-time musician. He lives near Columbia, Missouri.

Dirk Burhans has a web site about his book. See his web site Crunch!, which gives fascinating information about the book and the history of the potato chip.

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The cover of Burhans's book looks like a potato chip bag

LC: 2008011962 HD
232 pp.    6 x 9
8-page color insert, 17 b/w illus.

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